Pick picks England's future stars
England have not been tested so far during the Under-19 World Cup in Malaysia - their latest victory was a ten-wicket hammering of Bermuda in Kuala Lumpur - but Andy Pick, their coach, is upbeat about the challenges ahead.
Pick, the former Nottinghamshire fast bowler, reckons he's got a stronger squad for the Malaysian campaign compared to the World Cup in Sri Lanka in 2006. "We've got stronger individuals with more technical skills and more first class experience," Pick told Cricinfo. "They are a more talented bunch. It's a reflection of the system at home [in England]. Our selection is better with the younger players and we're getting players with better technical ability from the counties."
Steven Finn, the 6'8" fast bowler from Middlesex who was one of the architects of the win against Ireland, has already caught the eye. The bounce he got from his long run-up and tall action kept the Bermuda batsmen pinned on the back foot and it was more a case of ball hitting bat than the other way around. His new-ball partner, James Harris, who played for Glamorgan in 2007, also forced the batsmen on to the back foot and captured two wickets with quick short balls that the batsmen fended in the air.
"We try and encourage them to bowl that length - the in-between length where the batsman don't know whether to go back or come forward," Pick said. "Steven [Finn] is a big lad and creates a presence at the crease. Not too many people are looking to come forward against him because of his extra bounce."
The effectiveness of the length reflected in their economy-rates. Finn had figures of 7-4-8-2 while Harris took 2 for 22. Bermuda crawled at the start, scoring 12 runs off the first seven overs with no run coming in front of the wicket. Finn and Harris didn't need second spells because the change bowlers polished Bermuda off. Stuart Meaker, a medium-pacer, took 2 for 6 while left-arm orthodox spinner Liam Dawson won the Man-of-the-Match award for his 3 for 15.
Dawson bowled wicket to wicket, not giving the batsmen any room. He bowled Regino Smith and Gregory Maybury and had trapped leg before Kyle Hodsoll. England had another spinner in their attack, offspinner Tom Westley from Essex. He bowled just 1.5 overs but had Jordan de Silva stumped, the final Bermuda wicket to fall.
Both the spinners can bat too. Pick called them "bowling allrounders" and said that they had received "good reviews from Shane Warne" about Dawson at Hampshire while Westley had gained some one-day experience and made useful contributions with the bat at Essex.
|'We're concentrating a little bit more about tactical awareness and game-play, rather than technical. We've found out over the last five-six years that the level of technical ability that guys are bringing from their counties is improving'|
A target of 56 didn't leave the batsmen with much to do and Taylor ensured that his opening partner, Godleman, didn't have much to do either. However, Pick said that Godleman, who scored 61 against Pakistan and 38 against Ireland, was the best batsman in the side and "the one that I would suggest would go on to play the next level before anyone else."
A lot of England's players - all of them in fact, apart from James Goodman, Stuart Meaker, James Taylor and Greg Wood - have played first-class cricket. Is that a huge advantage? "It's not a very big advantage because a lot of them play supporting roles in first-class cricket," Pick said. We want them to play major role here. Obviously it does help because they get involved with senior first-class players and Test players and learn from their experience."
Pick's been involved with the U-19 side since 2003 and coached them at the 2006 World Cup in Sri Lanka before taking a sabbatical to coach Canada in the senior World Cup in the West Indies. He feels that such a long association with the age-group set-up has helped him evolve the development programme in England
"We're concentrating a little bit more about tactical awareness and game-play, rather than technical. We've found out over the last five-six years that the level of technical ability that guys are bringing from their counties is improving."
England's boys have had it relatively easy so far in their campaign. It will get tougher from here on, first against Bangladesh and then in the knock-out stage. From their performances so far, they look like a team to be reckoned with.
George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo